While work may not be continuing inside the physical school, as education has moved online due to the pandemic, work has continued outside Squamish Elementary, where a gazebo has appeared on the playground.
Still to come are six breakout circles around the structure for smaller group discussions. An outdoor amphitheatre and performance space, as well as a dry creekbed, are also planned.
"The focus of the space is learning and play, and so the space has been designed to accommodate two classrooms learning outside at the same time, or a larger group," Elaine Naisby, a landscape architect and parent at the school, told The Chief.
Squamish Nation culture will be incorporated into programming and events at the outdoor classroom and carver Larry Joseph will be making four carvings. The carvings will represent the eagle, bear, salmon and wolf clans in the gazebo.
The community can also use the outdoor classroom outside of school hours.
Naisby said having students currently out of school building while the landscape work is being done is actually a benefit, as it will give the plants more time to establish.
The project has been in the works since 2016, and the group behind it hopes it will be complete by the summer. Some additional funding is still needed, Naisby said, to complete the classroom as envisioned.
Grants and donations have come from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the PAC, as well as local companies supplying materials. One parent, Brad Saugstad of Terraform Landscaping, has helped with the installation.
Naisby designed the space with student input, feedback from the school's teachers, SD48 administration, an outdoor educator and a landscape contractor.
Students also took part in a co-design process, contributing ideas for features and effects. The outcome will be an engaging area students can interact with.
"Outdoor learning is recognized as an important part of a school day. Playing and learning outside helps children to understand and respect nature. Also, some children learn better in active environments and through hands-on learning," Naisby said.
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